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Syrian Crackdown On Dissent


Human rights monitors say Syrian Kurdish writer and activist Mashaal al-Tammo has been ordered to stand trial before a secret military court in Damascus. According to Syria's Human Rights Observatory, a non-governmental human rights monitoring group, Mr. Tammo was seen entering a court building in Damascus on August 26. He had not been seen since his disappearance on August 15 after leaving the northern Syrian city of Qubani. His car was later found near the headquarters of the Syrian security service in Aleppo.

The fifty-year-old Tammo is a prominent Syrian Kurdish political dissident and the spokesman of Kurdish Future Current, a political opposition group banned by Syrian authorities. According to the Society for Threatened People, a Syrian-Kurdish human rights group based in Germany, Mr. Tammo's relatives have been given no information by Syrian authorities concerning his detention. Amnesty International released a statement August 19th saying that Mr. Tammo "is believed to have been detained by the Syrian security police and to be at risk of torture."

On August 26, thirteen other Syrian political dissidents went on trial in Damascus. They include Riad Seif, an independent member of the Syrian National Assembly, arrested September 6, 2007, one day after hosting a political seminar at this home. Mr. Seif, who is suffering from cancer, told the court, that the real issue before the court was freedom of opinion. "We demand a national program for democratic change that begins with the right of expression," he said. Other defendants include writer Akran al-Bunni, who has spent seventeen years in Syrian political prisons; Dr. Walid al-Bunni, a physician who has been detained for five years, and political activist Kamal Lawani, currently serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for, in effect, visiting the United States.

U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement issued August 29, that the U.S. condemns "the detention of Tammo and other Syrian prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release by the Syrian government. We encourage the international community to join us in calling on the Syrian government to stop its policy of arresting critics of the regime and to comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
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